The stadiums thing? Less is more, baby. Less is more.

Matt Cleary Columnist

By Matt Cleary, Matt Cleary is a Roar Expert

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    The Sydney stadiums thing? We still talking about it?

    We are? Okay then. Let’s talk about it.

    But let’s talk about it with someone who knows what they’re talking about. Hunter Fujak is an academic at the University of Technology Sydney and has been doing a PhD focused on “quantitative modelling of sport and media consumption,” according to the internet.

    For the last four years he’s been adding to a CV that contains “cross-disciplinary experience across accounting and sport management, holding a CPA designation and a Masters degree in sport management.”

    Whatever that means, chances are he knows more than you.

    And so I asked him about the stadiums thing and what can rugby league, specifically, do to get more people in.

    Because you can have as shiny a big bastard of a stadium as you like, if the punters won’t come, it’s just as big an echo chamber.

    And the punters aren’t coming for a variety of reasons.

    But Hunter Fujak’s data is quantitative. And numbers don’t lie. And so I asked him this:

    Matt Cleary: So, Hunter Fujak, if that really is your name, where do you think our greatest game of all, rugby league, should go – or will go – in the next few years to get more in the gates? They’ve got an apparently independent commission – though the great God of Television will surely still control scheduling – and they must have an idea of their direction. But do they? And what it it?

    Hunter Fujak: “I think there are two components [to increased attendances]. If you think about economics you’ve got supply and demand. And I think the one thing NRL is trying to figure out is the supply side.

    “Any business can control supply a lot easier than they can control demand. And so we’ve seen the draw come out and I think they’re starting to cotton-on to the fact that there are too many games in Sydney.

    “And they’ve also realised, you know what, we don’t really have the power to force a team to go.

    “In the past, they’ve offered $10-$15 million dollars for a team to up shop and no one bid. So realistically the only way a team is going is if they bankrupt themselves.

    “The NRL has realised they can’t force a team to go.

    “So the only way we can get less games in Sydney is to get teams to move games from Sydney.

    “So from a supply side, I think they realise what they really need to do is try and create scarcity. It looks like their strategy.

    “What I think will happen in the future is they’re going to actively decrease games in Sydney per Sydney team to drive up the scarcity.

    “Look at the NFL in America. They have the highest average attendance of all sports and they only play a 16-week regular season.

    “So they have an incredible amount of scarcity, because there’s only ever six, seven games in any one city. Before you know it the season is wrapped up.

    “If you look at the NRL, back in 1995 when there was again basically at the peak of the total amount of clubs, there were 119 games in Sydney in the regular season.

    “In 2017 there were 95 games in Sydney. And that’s still a lot of games to be playing over 26 weeks in Sydney.

    “So there is absolutely a lack of scarcity. And if we think about last year our suburban grounds were probably at about 50 or 60 per cent capacity. You’d go to Allianz, ANZ, it was more like 10 to 20 per cent capacity.

    “This year the Tigers lost two games from Sydney, the Roosters played two games out of Sydney. Souths are taking two games out of Sydney.

    “And obviously that’s how we’ve ended up with games in Perth, Adelaide, Christchurch. There’s the doubleheader in Auckland, the doubleheader at Suncorp.

    “So given there are so many Sydney teams – and hence so many “derbies” – every Sydney team could realistically play eight home games in Sydney, and 4 ‘home games’ somewhere else.

    “Because realistically how much value does a Sharks versus Cowboys game have at Cronulla? How many extra fans does that bring in? Compared to taking that to Cairns?

    “If you know there’s roughly one game per month at your home ground, you would like to think that it becomes more an ‘event’.

    “If you’re a Manly fan and there’s one game a month at Brookvale you’d like to think that it is much more of an event.

    “My biggest recommendation is to identify a fixture list – and I think they’ve done a brilliant job with 2018’s fixture list now that they are controlling it.

    “What they need to do is identify all the local derbies, quarantine those and say this is our pool of Sydney games.

    “Get the 95 games down to maybe 70 at some point. And find the 70 core games that are most valuable, those are the Sydney games, play them in the right stadiums and the right time slots and all your Cronulla versus Cowboys, your Manly versus Titans, all those games that add relatively little value as a spectacle, those are the ones which you take away to somewhere else where they can add more value.”

    Matt Cleary
    Matt Cleary

    Matt Cleary is a sports writer from Sydney. He enjoys golf, footy and Four Pines Pale Ale, and spends as much time as conscience allows at Long Reef GC. Tweet him @journomatcleary, or read him at his website.

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    The Crowd Says (92)

    • December 15th 2017 @ 6:53am
      AR said | December 15th 2017 @ 6:53am | ! Report

      Sorry, maybe I’m missing something…but how do you reduce the Sydney games from 95 to 70?

      Is Hunter suggesting the season be shortened to create scarcity?

      • December 15th 2017 @ 7:33am
        Christo the Daddyo said | December 15th 2017 @ 7:33am | ! Report

        Take some of the Sydney based teams’ home games away from Sydney. Season remains as is (although I think it’s way too long myself…), but reduce the number of games the Sydney teams play at home.

        • December 15th 2017 @ 8:13am
          AR said | December 15th 2017 @ 8:13am | ! Report

          So play home games for Sydney clubs in regional areas? Or even interstate?

          I still don’t see how this improves attendances or utilises the new stadiums better.

          • Columnist

            December 15th 2017 @ 11:50am
            Matt Cleary said | December 15th 2017 @ 11:50am | ! Report

            HIs point was “scarcity” of the product, to make attending the product more appealing. He used the example of the NFL that has a 12-week regular season, and thus 6 home games. And it’s the most-watched sport in the USA. And tickets are hot tickets.

            • December 15th 2017 @ 12:51pm
              Jaime O'Donnell said | December 15th 2017 @ 12:51pm | ! Report

              Except the NFL has a regular season of 17 weeks (week 15 just kicked off). Each team get a bye and play 8 home games.

              Each NRL team plays 12 home games a season, and as a Manly fan I am filthy when we take a “home” game to Perth, New Zealand or Brisbane like was done last season. Living in Canberra, it is hard enough to attend home games for Manly at Brookvale.

            • December 15th 2017 @ 5:19pm
              AR said | December 15th 2017 @ 5:19pm | ! Report

              Yes I understand the basic theory of scarcity….as far as *average* attendances are concerned.

              But that doesn’t apply to the NRL at all, so I don’t see how it’s a helpful or relevant point.

              And if the broader issue is filling the shiny new stadiums week in week out, it is even less helpful or relevant, no?

            • December 15th 2017 @ 7:21pm
              Kangajets said | December 15th 2017 @ 7:21pm | ! Report

              And the USA has 300 million people compared to Australia with 24

              Wonder why they have more demand in the USA

      • December 15th 2017 @ 9:07am
        AGO74 said | December 15th 2017 @ 9:07am | ! Report

        Did you even read the article? He said to reduce amount of games at your home ground (on average) from 12 to 8 by playing less attractive games in regional areas and/or other state capitals. Pretty simple really.

        • December 24th 2017 @ 6:08pm
          Rob said | December 24th 2017 @ 6:08pm | ! Report

          It works too if you can get a good deal… in the AFL, the Melbourne footy club sells two home games to the Northern Territory. Last year a total of 20,000 attended the two games and the Demons pocketed about $700,000. At the MCG these games would have attracted a total of between 40000 and 50000 (combined) depending on the day and the scheduling – but instead of playing in front of a quater filled stadium and bearly making any money after the bills are payed they played in front of (all be it small) sell out crowds and showered in the cash after the games. For the record… 1 win 1 loss

      • December 15th 2017 @ 9:34am
        Perry Bridge said | December 15th 2017 @ 9:34am | ! Report

        Joining the dots – a clear suggestion based on the NFL of the benefits of a shorter season. I find it astounding how long the NRL season is – whilst slotting in 3 SoO matches and then trying to fit in some ‘internationals’.

        However – Hunter hasn’t gone that far (joining the dots) because of the push for each Sydney team to play 8 home games in Sydney and 4 elsewhere.

        All I can say is that’s a lot of games elsewhere. Good luck with that. But keeping all the local derbies in Sydney and taking the other games out – so, the Warriors will never play H&A season game in Sydney again? Or the Storm?

    • Roar Guru

      December 15th 2017 @ 7:10am
      Kashmir Pete said | December 15th 2017 @ 7:10am | ! Report

      i think saints play two premiership games in mudgee in 2018

      good country playing field – should be packed

    • December 15th 2017 @ 7:11am
      Josh said | December 15th 2017 @ 7:11am | ! Report

      No AR what he is saying is wjat tje NRL is doing. So you have 9 NRL teams in sydney if you include the dragons and they play 12 home games each which is 108 sydney home games if tjey play all games at home but you take away 6 from the dragons into tje gong gets ypu to 102. The other 8 clubs then take 2 ganes against put of town clubs to venues out of sydney neans 16 less ganes in sydney so taking the sydney home games down to 86 home games which is 22 poorly drawing games that disapear from sydney. So in effect ypu could suggest getting down to 70 means each team taking 2 more home games away. This is too extremem in my view but wpuld be mean 70 games in sydney. 8 home games in sydney for 8 clubs plus 6 for the dragons. This would mean each sydney team would play the other sydney teams in sydney only and play out of town teams somewhere else. This would also lead to games being played put of big stadiums more often but less games and as he said 8 games is roughly once a month. Personally i think 10 home games each is ok in sydney and 2 away. Giving us 86 games when inclduing 6 for the dragons.

    • December 15th 2017 @ 7:22am
      jamesb said | December 15th 2017 @ 7:22am | ! Report

      Here is the thing. In the old days when i started watching football, there was 22 rounds, where each team played 22 games and it included split rounds. Today we have 26 rounds and each team plays 24 games.

      You have players missing a couple of games due to origin. I always believe that each team should go back to playing 22 games and have 3 stand alone representative weekends which would include origin, womens origin, and pacific tests.

      That would be a good alternative to create ‘scarcity’.

    • December 15th 2017 @ 7:41am
      Not so super said | December 15th 2017 @ 7:41am | ! Report

      I think he’s onto something. Problem for dragons and wests is that it goes down to 4 games at each venue and the scarcity gets so high that people lose connection

    • December 15th 2017 @ 7:47am
      Greg Ambrose said | December 15th 2017 @ 7:47am | ! Report

      I don’t want scarcity at all because I watch most games on the jelly vision. Maybe we are heading for an era when fans need an incentive to go to the ground and free admission is part of the deal.

      I might be in the minority bu the fact that League is played in Winter is a bigger factor for me as I get older. The prospect of spending several hours outside on a bleak day gets less appealing than sitting on the new lounge we are about to receive and switching on the noisy and colourful box in the corner of the room.

      • December 16th 2017 @ 7:33am
        Mushi said | December 16th 2017 @ 7:33am | ! Report

        That hits at the follow up questions for me.

        He’s making some assumptions on elasticity and where we currently sit relative to the intersection point of the supply demand curve. I wouldn’t mind understanding that assumption and if it is based on NRL information or extrapolating AFL/US data.

        Also has media consumption changed enough to have shifted that demand curve substantially?

        His suggestion is a low risk one though, other than media bollocking the inherent unfairness if Sydney teams happen to be good and four regional teams drop to the cellar but those same people would find something else, but I also am not sure it will be high impact either.

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